Godfrey Mwafongo: Shocking demotion from the State House to the Dog House By Wilson Kaigarula, The Guardian, Dar es Salaam 26th December 2010 Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo brooding in front of his house in Tukuyu over an uncertain future(2007). Small picture on top left the late Mwafongo as young man. In the distant past, as is bound to remain the case right into the long future, some parents did and shall, name their children after personalities they fancied and fancy. That's apparently the framework within which Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo (67) got his third name, borrowed from the Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin. Godfrey, who died and was buried in Tukuyu this week, didn't replicate the dictatorship of his partial Soviet namesake, but if stubbornness and toughness are some ingredients of dictatorship, then Stalin, as Mwafongo's middle name, wasn't entirely far-fetched. The deceased was part of the pioneer crop of young Tanzanian journalists, having joined the Tanzania Information Services Department, Maelezo, an outfit within the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in 1966. One of his early posts was editorship of the ‘Tanzania News Review', an English sister publication of ‘Nchi Yetu'. The following year, he joined Canada's prestigious Carleton University for a diploma course – being among the first local journalists to train abroad. Close to the mid-70s, while on a field assignment for ‘Uhuru' and ‘Mzalendo' newspapers, he highlighted the torture to which hunger was subjecting the people of Mtwara, some of whom were compelled to subsist on mangoes. Regional authorities plus some higher-up were angry, because, in keeping with single-party tradition, journalists were supposed to either cover up embarrassing hardships and scandals, or tone them down. But the ‘Stalin' component of Godfrey was at work – he was unapologetic, and he encouraged younger entrants into the profession to stick to their guns in the face of threats for being truthful in their reportage. Of course the going was tougher then than the period following the liberalization of the media as an offshoot of economic liberalization in the mid-90s. The government tapped into the resourcefulness of the young professional by appointing him assistant press secretary to founder President Julius Nyerere in 1974. He served, first, under Benjamin Mkapa, who later became president, and subsequently, (the late) Sammy Mdee. Mwafongo – or Fong, as some colleagues fondly addressed him – also worked at the (defunct) Tanzania News Agency, Shihata, and TSN (publishers of ‘Daily News' and ‘Sunday News') where his joviality and helpfulness to younger colleagues were remarkable. Newsrooms of the 90s backwards had a mild form of an army setting, whereby an editor of any rank either behaved like a demi-god who terrified subordinates and sought their absolute obedience; or, subordinates held them in awe and fear. Not so for Godfrey, who was so simple and so friendly that the juniors he helped grasp the knitty-gritty of news reporting, feature writing and sub-editing craft were at ease in his company. There was (still is) something mystic about the State House, which makes some individuals associated with it to be big-headed and boastful; and for some outsiders to perceive them as a special species. Godfrey was an odd person out. Old-generation journalists recall that during media briefing sessions at ‘Ikulu', he made them feel most at home by his chit-chats and jokes; especially because he knew everyone by face and name and related to everyone as a brother. The camaraderie over-shot ‘Ikulu' boundaries, Godfrey being the same simple, friendly, approachable comrade at meetings, workshops and symposia. Over-shooting boundaries has its repercussions, though, and Godfrey paid a price for committing that social sin. His easy-going nature must have ruffled the feathers of powerful individuals who dislike and sanction anyone who violates certain long-held administrative settings and protocols. Mwafongo's behaviour – reportedly engaging Mwalimu Nyerere in joke-cracking sessions sometimes, and resisting title-worshipping sycophancy run counter to the ‘When-in-Rome-do-as-Romans do" principle. But his undoing lay more in overshooting social boundaries, on both the official and domestic fronts. Excessive endearment to alcohol, to the extent of perceiving himself as a hero for ‘conquering' it mercilessly, affected the performance of the essentially brilliant practitioner, and injected the so-called nuisance value in his character. It is a situation employers don't tolerate, or do so up to a point. It is also a situation that compromises the ability and capacity of the victim to undertake what is technically known as ‘Administration Number One' (administering oneself) , and, by extension, renders him a poor family superintendent. At a social gathering towards the late 80s, while he and I were colleagues on the ‘Daily News', Godfrey half-bemusedly and half-sorrowfully remarked that he was toying with the idea of writing his memoirs, titled "From the State House to the Dog House'. I encouraged him and even offered to team up with him on the project. It didn't materialize because, a few months later, after going to Ruvuma Region on a feature-writing assignment, he never returned, subsequently returned to his home village in Tukuyu, and became a peasant who, until his death, led a miserable life. The demotion from State House to Dog House haunted me as a story that would make good reading, but the opportunity to which end was lost, after Mwafongo's retreat to his rural home. I reckoned, however, that a slice of it could be captured by a news story on old boy Fong, via a Mbeya-based correspondent of this newspaper. The result was a glimpse into Stalin's life published in early 2008, plus photographs, one of which attends this obituary. Many people, more-so former colleagues and acquaintances, were struck by gigantic disbelief that someone who had been pacing up and down the corridors of power, plus rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty, should be reduced to living in a mud hut and selling avocadoes to school children, to raise petty cash for gluing soul and body. May the Almighty God rest the soul of Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo in eternal peace. Amen. SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo - Journey's end By RICHARD MNGAZIJA, Daily News, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 23rd December 2010 "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." - William Shakespeare IT may sound fictitious but here is a sober truth story of Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo. It is about a man who served as Assistant Press Secretary to the Father of the Nation, the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. A powerful interviewer and a journalist who became an icon himself and who in recent years wrote angrily against the forgotten journalists, died on Tuesday at Tukuyu (popularly abbreviated TKY) District Hospital. As a journalist, I worked with the late Godfrey way back in 1966 in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. After having completed my Secondary School education, I was posted to Tanga Region as Assistant Information Officer. During that time, I was waiting for my Cambridge Examination results. In those days, examinations were being set in Britain and the names of the candidates who sat for the Cambridge Exams had their names published in the government local English daily newspaper - The Standard. In February 1967, Godfrey who was working at the headquarters of the ministry (MAELEZO) Press Office called me. And I quote: ''Aisee Richard (fellow Richard) I have just read The Standard; you have obtained a Second Class Division.'' In those days, Cambridge Exams results had to be published in the local government English newspaper. What a great joy it had been! To obtain a Cambridge School Certificate (CSC) in Division One, Two or Three you must have a credit in English language. And in case one failed in the English Exam paper, he or she obtained a General Certificate of Education (GCE). It did not matter how many units one may have scored. Godfrey became famous in the 1960s and 1970s for his prolific writing and long, aggressive and revealing interviews with prominent people - once being labeled "the journalist to whom virtually no world figure would say no." The late Mwafongo had in his lifetime served in various media houses including the Daily News, Uhuru and Mzalendo and Tanzania News Agency (SHIHATA) As an Assistant Press Secretary to Mwalimu, Godfrey served as the presidency's chief public relations officer, promoting and protecting the president's image in the public eye. He was the eye and ear of the president on current affairs. Essentially, he ensured that the president got timely news and updated facts from local and foreign media outlets. Godfrey ensured appropriate and sufficient exposure of the President to the media by way of press conferences, interviews and statements. He corrected misrepresentations and distortions of the president's views and feelings, with the golden rule: "Say no more than the president tells you to say; you are not the president!" He also processed media applications for meetings and interviews with the president. He covered presidential events for the media in the absence of press representatives. Godfrey facilitated timely release of the president's speeches after seeing them well in advance of delivery in spotting possible revisions, misstatements and errors of fact. On protocol matters, he organized the presidential gifts and cleared them in case of official presidential visits abroad. He organized local media for the photo opportunities which visitors to the President needed and for the occasional private and family functions. Last but not least, Godfrey was the spokesman on Cabinet decisions which were a result of the initiative of the President's Office, and whose implementation was within the daily domain of the president. He did all these duties diligently and efficiently. But Mwafongo's star faded as soon as it had brightened. His later life after the end of his term at the State House and a short stint at the Daily News before retiring to village life was not a bed of roses. It was a thorny one. Mwafongo once told a local visiting journalist and I quote: ''I am now in the dog house. Yes, from the State House to the dog house,'' the frail but once a dynamic journalist said in an interview at his Tukuyu makeshift residence way back in 1998. Mwafongo represented a sore sight especially to those who knew him during his hey days. Shocked fellow journalists simply found it too hard to take the facts, and at a glimpse of his pictures, some just said: ''I cannot believe this. We ought to do something to salvage him from further humility, agony and disgrace.'' Mwafongo had lost hope despite his long story. The almost tearful Mwafongo appealled: ''I am willing and ready to be reabsorbed in journalistic duties, especially sub-editing'', he told the visitng journalist. He asked: ''The problem is I do not have money to travel to Dar es Salaam, nor do I have a place to stay. Should I be assured of those two missing links, I will be in the game.'' The seasoned and once dependable journalist literally lived on ripe bananas, green vegetables, fruits and water, the life of an ancient age. He recalled : ''The last time I took rice, ugali, meat, fish and other decent meals was in 1999 when I left Dar es Salaam for Mbeya to attend the funeral of my wife and nursing my mother who also died in the same year. Those were the meals for a human being,'' he remembered with sadness. Mwafongo collected avocados and pieces of sugarcane which he sold at very low prices to win the sympathy of customers. He used the money he got to buy soap and medicine when he fell sick. He was amongst senior journalists picked to establish the defunct Tanzania News Agency, SHIHATA, whose first director was former President Benjamin Mkapa. Holding the position of Assistant Editor, Mwafongo was posted to Mbeya, Rukwa and Ruvuma as regional bureau chief. Born in 1943 as the last of four children in the family of Mzee Andulile Mwafongo at Waganga Quarters in Kyela District, Mbeya, Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo started his education in 1951 in Tukuyu, Rungwe District before moving to Ilboru Secondary School where he completed Form VI in 1965. The following year he entered the newsroom of Tanzania Information Services where he worked until he was sent or a diploma course in journalism to Canada in 1967. After three years, he returned to the country and was posted to Uhuru/Nationalist run by the ruling TANU party, precursor of Chama Cha Mapinduzi. He recalled: ''It was at this newsroom that I met Benjamin Mkapa. Mkapa was my boss who had all the qualities of a leader, excelling in journalistic skills,'' recalled Mwafongo, quickly adding: ''In 1974 I was appointed Assistant Press Secretary to the President, working under Mkapa who was the Press Secretary then, before the late Sammy Mdee took over from Mkapa.'' From the State House, he was sent to Shihata in 1978 and was posted to Rukwa. He did not mince words when he recalled how the late Mwalimu Nyerere found him in Rukwa. ''Godfrey, what are you doing here? Come with me,'' and he came back to Dar es Salaam. In Dar, he joined the Daily News and Sunday News as a sub-editor, a job he lost in circumstances that he declined to disclose. Mwafongo, who kept body and soul together mainly through the help of neighbours, had three children with whom he had lost contact. "They are Kisa Mwafongo, Bupe Mwafongo and Atherjile Mwafongo and I have no idea where and how they are,'' he lamented. Adios Amigo Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo. May the Almighty God rest his soul in Eternal Peace. Amen.